Having giving some thought into the immigration debate and the bickering over whether to build a wall along our borders, here is a summary of what I’ve concluded.
Opening the borders up completely without any changes to the current welfare state could, and likely, lead to the very closed borders system that open border advocates oppose.
Sound counterintuitive, (or unlibertarian) doesn’t it?
Open Borders and the Welfare State
A welfare state cannot survive if producers are able to escape it as freely as consumers can enter it. Either one or the other must be restricted in their freedom of movement, or else it collapses. If the welfare state exists within a democracy and there is the power to do so, more often than that it is the producers who will have their ability to leave curtailed.
Opening the borders surrounding a welfare state means that anyone and everyone can come in and live off resources expropriated from others. We already have that happening right now in the United States, even with immigration restrictions.
Does anyone genuinely believe that there will be fewer immigrants on welfare with open borders, that it won’t lead to millions of people currently living in poverty in the Third World pouring into states with the biggest welfare system? (It seems patronizing for me to even ask, but I’ve learned to assume nothing).
More welfare recipients means more and more spending, which requires higher taxes. Somebody has to pay for them. That “somebody” is the producing side of the economy. This being a democracy, the consumers will obviously vote to get more and more free stuff.
Except at some point, the producers will decide they’ve had enough and either cease producing to join the welfare crowd, or take their wealth to jurisdictions that will give them a minimal amount of hassling. At first, it will be to other states; but when the federal welfare state reaches an epidemic level they will then leave the country. If you’re a producer, being a citizen can be a financial liability, even after you leave the country; if you’re a consumer, it’s a ticket for free stuff.
We’re already seeing this to a certain degree, as the number of people renouncing their U.S. citizenship is at an all-time high. Imagine if this were to occur on a much larger scale.
Which leads us to the unsustainable setup the French economist Bastiat talked about. Sooner or later you run out of other people’s money, especially when they’re fleeing in droves.
Eventually, to keep the wealth inside the country, the government will enact emigration restrictions.
But don’t worry; it’s just to make sure those damned greedy rich people pay their fair share, particularly once an asset tax is implemented in order to pay for the ever-bloating welfare state. It certainly won’t eventually apply to ordinary citizens like the income tax……
Consider Detroit. The city scared away all the producers with their high taxes (including the nation’s highest commercial property taxes) and welfare system, until they went bankrupt, which they even blamed on the productive sector leaving. Unlike Detroit, the feds have the authority – or at least the power, to keep us from “voting with our feet” in the form of emigration.
Pushing for open borders as the first and primary step, totally independent from anything else that is also implemented, could lead to a situation where we have closed borders when all the producers attempt to flee.
No Easy Solution Either Way
What’s the solution, then? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. Like I’ve said several times, the current immigration laws need to be completely overhauled.
There is where I get frustrated with open border libertarian literature; their focus is exclusively on one aspect of the issue, when in reality it is multi-faceted. There needs to be multiple steps taken in conjunction with one another. You cannot just say “the borders need to be opened!” and leave it at that, then expect someone to take the proposal seriously.
Here’re a few of my interconnected proposals:
- The best place to start is by reforming the immigration laws to make it as effortless as possible for immigrants to enter who can also prove they won’t become a financial burden to those already here. Or, they can waive any claim to welfare benefits as a condition of entry (this means they also shouldn’t have to contribute to programs like Social Security unless they become citizens). Sorry, but anyone who opposes this idea, yet still advocates for open borders, has shown their true colors.
- Deregulation needs to happen to make it financially viable for companies to hire low-skilled residents incapable of working higher-end jobs. This way, the companies will not move their plants and factories overseas or import cheap immigrant labor in order to keep prices down. You cannot seriously argue that the tens of thousands of pages of regulations found in Federal register have no effect whatsoever on the loss of jobs in the U.S. market.
- Additionally, we need to reduce the welfare benefits for citizens; this would incentivize the younger and less skilled to work lower-end jobs until they can acquire more valuable skills. It would also end the “anchor-baby” debate because being a citizen wouldn’t guarantee freebies.
- Abolishing the Federal Reserve or curtailing its credit expansion would make it impossible for people to artificially raise their standard of living with easy access to credit; this gives a false sense of prosperity subsidized by a debt bubble we cannot possible maintain indefinitely. There are jobs “Americans won’t do” because instead of working a crappy job they can just take out loans and never pay it off by declaring bankruptcy.
- We also have to address how democracy enables people to vote in ways that force others to pay for programs and services that benefit them and how this can be controlled or prevented. When 100,000 people enter your jurisdiction and begin voting to take away your rights, they cease to be immigrants and become invaders and looters.
Another thing that is ignored is how our education system is completely failing to train the next generation to work jobs they have to fill with high-skill immigrant labor. This isn’t popular to say in “respectable circles” (as if I ever cared about respectability) but a person who is forced to go to a state-run school, taught worthless and harmful ideologies, then thrown into an economy inadequately prepared to work in it, has a legitimate grievance against that government that insisted on educating them while the country is compelled to bring in labor from other countries to replace them in the workforce. A libertarian arrangement would have private education institutions, which would educate their students based on what the job market demands, and thus we wouldn’t have college graduates walking out with worthless degrees that have no correlation with the job market.
The more these proposals are carried out, the less restrictive the border can be to where anyone and everyone can enter.
All libertarians believe in the idea of “open borders,” just as we believe in private security and oppose war. But we are forced to live in a reality where people often have to rely on state-run police force to obtain justice and a military should another country threaten invasion or war. If one is going to argue from a purist-bent, then they must apply these standards to every single region in the world, something I can’t help but notice they fail to do.
I understand the complexities of the immigration and borders discussion, and far be it for me to say I have the perfect answer, or to claim it can be solved immediately by carrying out one solution, but the improper frame of the debate needs to end. Calling people “nativists,” racists,” and “white nationalists” for opposing what would amount to a sudden and violent cultural, societal, and political upheaval, while refusing to even acknowledge their legitimate concerns is not going to make converts out of anyone.